Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dallas DA Defines "Smart on Crime"

Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins had a column in the Dallas News (Jan. 7) yesterday reflecting on his first year in office. In addition to describing his much-publicized partnership with the Innocence Project to correct past mistakes and exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners, he goes further to define what his office means by "smart on crime":

Being smart on crime means we look at ways to keep repeat offenders off our streets, and we are doing so with a new and improved "impact offender" program. In conjunction with the Dallas Police Department and our elected district judges, we are targeting offenders who repeatedly fail to stop their criminal behavior. These impact offenders are tried within 60 days of indictment, and their convictions swiftly take them off our streets, out of our county jail and into the state penitentiary, thus creating a safer community and saving Dallas County taxpayers' money.

Being smart on crime also means that we are seeking the necessary resources to represent and protect citizens. We were fortunate to receive approval in the 2008 budget for funds that will pay for a prosecutor to handle cases of financial abuse against the elderly, which is a growing problem in our community. We also received federal grants to establish a gang unit and a sexual assault unit. The gang unit not only focuses on prosecution, but also on discouraging young people from getting involved in gangs. The sexual assault unit is supported by a $1.48 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women. This funding allows us to finally have a prosecutor, investigator and caseworker dedicated to handling sexual assault crimes.

We also have established a unit that works directly with the county's probation department, the constables and the Sheriff's Department to locate probation absconders and get them back into custody.

In addition, we have implemented a new policy for first-time, nonviolent misdemeanors. Offenders are now held accountable for their actions – often youthful indiscretions – by doing community service and completing educational courses. For drug cases, offenders must also pass two drug tests within a specific period. When these requirements are met, offenders' cases are dismissed, thus keeping marks off their criminal records that would inevitably put their future employment at risk. And as we know, when people can't find jobs, they typically move on to more serious crimes.


Catonya said...

Wishing we could clone and distribute him across Texas.

Anonymous said...

In the final analysis, what drives all this talk about being 'smart' on crime...as opposed to the previous shibboleth of being 'tough' on it? It's M-O-N-E-Y.

Nationwide, we're running out of money to incarcerate all the people we built prisons to hold because so many previous nuisances (like drug usage) were made into criminal offenses.

The 'champagne tastes' of the drug prohibitionists have met the 'beer-budget' realities of an economy that cannot afford such drains upon it...as drug prohibition represents. The party's over, and the bill for all the revelry is coming due. You can only imprison your out of social problems (rather than actually deal with them) for as long as you can afford the jail cell and the key.

Once you can't, not only do you still have the original problems, but all the ones that depend from the original ones, such as a population more or less permanently ostracized and marginalized (as well as dangerously alienated) thanks to being unemployable due to criminal records.

Yes, it's long past time to be 'smart' on crime, but we could have been that, anyways, from the get-go.

Unknown said...

What about ensuring that there are fewer crime victims to be protected. Since over 90% of "drug related" crimes are really drug policy related crimes based on the high cost of using drugs that are banned legalization seems a no brainer.

Besides, IF we actually adopt measurable standards for legal access to drugs we would have to legalize them temporarily to conduct the research. My junior high child is already learning about research bias and it is a slam dunk relating that to the drug war.

Personally, I believe in zero standards - with tough requirements on disclosure. Get rid of the DEA, confine the FDA to foods and toys, and let the FTC go after those who don't disclose risks to consumers about drugs.

Anonymous said...

Craig Watkins is absolutely the model by which we need to judge future DA's.

Anonymous said...

Basically I agree with what was said. I do have to take exception with the following:

"These impact offenders are tried within 60 days of indictment, and their convictions swiftly take them off our streets, out of our county jail and into the state penitentiary, thus creating a safer community and saving Dallas County taxpayers' money."

Guilty - No need to prove innocense! This type of thinking makes a mockery of our judicial system. Shame on the DA for this comment!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:37

I agree the attitude is "What is that hood doing outside of prison?" we will have to fix that.

The ugly truth is that over 90% of those charged are convicted (most as the result of a plea bargain). If they are nonviolent repeat offenders who know how to work the system they probably will be back on the street on parole fairly quickly. The DA policy just reduces the amount of time they are on the street.